French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to lift the country’s state of emergency, cut the size of the national parliament and reinvigorate the European Union as part of a wide-ranging speech that set out his vision for the future of France.
Speaking in the opulent setting of the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, Macron told newly-elected members of the Assembly and Senate that France that he wanted to “re-establish the freedoms of the French people.”
“These freedoms are the precondition of the existence of a strong democracy,” he said.
In the speech, Macron said he would:
– Lift the country’s state of emergency later this year.
– Enact new anti-terror laws as part of a crackdown on extremism.
– Cut the size of the national parliament by a third, and put the issue to a referendum if lawmakers did not go along with the plan.
– Lead a charge to breathe new life into the European Union, which he said had “lost its way.”
Honeymoon period over
It appears that the honeymoon period enjoyed by Macron, elected by a convincing majority in May, has ended. He faced criticism for choosing the Palace of Versailles as the setting for his address to both houses of the French parliament – Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” ruled from Versailles in the 17th century.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy gathered lawmakers in Versailles in 2009 to discuss constitutional changes and Francois Hollande did the same in the aftermath of the terror attacks of November 2015 to announce a state of emergency.
But this was the first time that a French president used Versailles for an opening policy speech.
Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon said it was a “sign of the pharaonic drift of this monarchical presidency.”
French newspapers have mocked Macron for his vision for a “Jupeterian” presidency – an aloof, distant figure like Jupiter, the Roman god of gods.
But Macron believes the office was demeaned by the down-to-earth style of predecessor Francois Hollande.
Last week, the Élysée palce said Macron would not give a traditional Bastille Day TV interview because his thought process was too “complex” for the “game” of questions and answers with journalists.
State of emergency to be lifted
Macron used his speech to confirm that France’s state of emergency would be lifted in the fall, although he did not specify a date.
The state of emergency has been extended five times since it was introduced after the Paris terror attack which killed 130 people in November 2015. It is likely to be extended once again when the current window expires in the middle of July.